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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeJun 29th 2014
    What (salt-based) water softener would you recommend?
    I bought my last one from Wrekin Water Softeners. They were very helpful. Happy customer only.
    Do you really need one ??
    If you want to avoid using, and paying, for salts but want a unit that does deliver the results, may i politely point you at the previous discussion ref the Ecosoft Water Conditioner where i have just unpicked some of the misunderstandings.
    i hope this is helpful
    • CommentAuthorjamesingram
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2014 edited
    Thanks Ecosoft, seems perfectly reasonable for you to post your view point here.

    My comment was more on how necessary are they really ?

    I've found over the last 25 years of fitting and working in properties with water softners (salt type)
    they are usually consider a must have necessity by those that I'd describe as slightly better off. Dare I say middle class and up.
    reasons giving are
    Reduced cleaning - they usually employ cleaners
    Less cleaning chemical - a good thing , but how does this balance with salt/energy usage of the softner
    Appliances last longer - they seem to consume appliances at the same rate those without softners do, perhaps more so because they can afford to.
    Feels nicer - well that's just a view

    So do we really need them or are they just an environmental negative.

    Of course if the're are products that can show a good environmental return on investment then of course that's good.
    I don't have one. But then I don't have a dishwashing machine either so I must be mad :)
    Hi James,
    Excellent question, and kinda ties in with one of the reasons we picked up the Ecosoft and decided to run with it.

    Basically I agree with your position ref the ones that work properly (mainly salt based) cost money (salts and wasted regeneration water) so tend to be available more to those with a slightly larger budget. BUT I was genuinely surprised when i started looking into the costs of limescale (we had an idea as a plumbing company in Bristol as we kept replacing electric shower, hideously expensive shower valves!, taps seizing up and boiler bits dying prematurely) and did some calculations.

    Ignoring the money saved on replacement of dying equipment (kettles, showers, washing machines etc) and parts (and associated plumbers fees) i just did some simple sums on cleaning products and energy saving.
    For average family of 4, using bog standard products nothing fancy, they can save approx £500 per annum just in detergents, conditions, softeners etc.

    If you then add that 1mm of limescale = 10% increase in your energy costs (2mm=20%, 3mm = 30% etc: British Water) on the hot water only as heating is sealed system, and if you are in a hard water area, you’ll have a lot more than 1mm. so if we remove the limescale, and prevent any future scale then this is an ongoing saving, and not insignificant, although clearly it varies from home to home. And yes the appliances do work as well at a lower temp so again a further saving.

    the rest is personal, nice but not essential. However we are lucky that in Bristol there really is a strong green streak so folk do seem to want to not use more than necessary of anything.

    As far as Ecosoft goes, there are no inputs or outputs, so no negative impact on the environment. We reckon, that an Ecosoft in a domestic setting can earn its keep in 2 years, and from there its all savings. :-)
    • CommentAuthorbillt
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2014
    Posted By: jamesingram
    My comment was more on how necessary are they really ?

    They aren't necessary at all, but they are very nice to have.

    I like the feel of softened water, it tastes horrible though!

    It makes cleaning things like taps very much easier - I don't know if we're middle class or not, but we do our own cleaning.

    None of the other things you'll see in water softeners ads are valid, in my opinion. I've not to see any credible evidence for significantly shortened appliance life or significantly increased fuel consumption with un-softened water, and the difference in detergent use is also unnoticeable.

    They have no environmental pluses and the waste brine is a minus, but like many things they are nice luxury.
    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeJun 30th 2014
    Posted By: jamesingramDo you really need one ??

    Our boiler manual says:
    In regions of with a water hardness value higher than 267ppm (we're between 257-288), calcium deposits should be removed from the plate heat exchanger on a regular basis. If problems occur when using sanitary water with a chlorine content higher than 150 mg/l, no recourse can be made to the terms of the warranty.

    In order to prevent calcification ATAG recommends applying a water softener. ATAG recommends the use of for instance AlphaPhos for cleaning plate exchangers.
    Our water hardness is 320ppm, although it does vary slightly throughout the year. With a softener I found that I had to dilute the washing liquid by 50% to prevent the washing machine water foaming too much. I have a venturii shower which needs soft water to prevent the valves clogging. Ordinary immersions last less than a year although the titanium ones survive longer. Not really a luxury for us.
    May i comment again.
    We are seeing a wide range of limescale hardness and effects even within the same water distribution area. We think this may be simply down to the source of the water, i.e. reservoir vs aquifer but it does pose interesting questions, as we have clients who all benefit as expected from the Ecosoft but still see variations in their personal experiences.

    As for boilers/water heaters limescale is truly destructive of the heating elements and we hope to significantly increase their lifespan. The field test in Perth, Oz, was run for 18 months with 2 water heaters, and in an area where the units were previously being thrown away after 2 years, these units were as good as new. This was the Perth State Housing dept, and they now replace their units every 10 years. i can forward this report to anyone who’s interested.

    some of the boiler manufacturers also indicate that if they use aluminium in their component parts then you should not use a salt based softener as it corrodes the parts.
    And we are repeatedly replacing expensive shower valves :-(
    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014
    I used to live in Buckinghamshire and the water was so hard that it ruined everything (my tea was OK though).
    Now I am down in the far SW my kettle lasts years.
    Her is a picture of my current one that is about 5 years old and has never been de-scaled.
    The reason I'm tempted to get one is to protect our domestic hot water tank. They suffer significantly reduced capacity & increased re-heat time after a few years of limescale build-up. The long term build-up in the tank itself can be eliminated by choosing a thermal store, but the hot water heat exchanger needed with a thermal store is more sensitive to limescale build-up. As the water needs to be heated in the few seconds it takes to pass through, even a few millimeters can significantly reduce hot water temperatures & flow rates at a given temperature. So either way it seems a water softener is a good idea.

    • CommentTimeJul 2nd 2014 edited
    Posted By: davidfreeboroughThe long term build-up in the tank itself can be eliminated by choosing a thermal store, but the hot water heat exchanger needed with a thermal store is more sensitive to limescale build-up. As the water needs to be heated in the few seconds it takes to pass through, even a few millimeters can significantly reduce hot water temperatures & flow rates at a given temperature. So either way it seems a water softener is a good idea.

    The heat exchanger can be descaled fairly easily though, as long as the system is designed with that function in mind.

    The reason I'll be buying a *softener* is SWMBO! :devil:

    edit: typo corrected
    why descale when you can simply avoid/prevent any limescale build up in the first place?

    Que - SWMBO ?
    • CommentAuthorEd Davies
    • CommentTimeJul 3rd 2014
    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeAug 6th 2014 edited
    Looking at getting one of these with meter control and high flow installation kit:

    £489.11 that wasn't in our budget :cry:
    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeAug 6th 2014 edited
    What do you make of the claims on this page about single tank softeners?

    Annoying how they don't technical information or prices on their website. This is the info I received when I enquired (we're a 1-6 person house):

    Softener prices do vary depending on size of property and plumbing. Purchasing your looking at £900-£1800.

    Running costs vary depending on how much water you use but we say on average one block of salt per person per month. Salt on average is £4.00 a pack.

    All our softeners are twin cylinder, non electric block salt softeners. Therefore you do not need to be concerned about a hefty electric bill.

    Our softeners also only use 17 litres of water to regenerate compared to a electric softener that can use anywhere between 23-30 litres.
    • CommentAuthorSimon Still
    • CommentTimeAug 6th 2014 edited
    This place has a huge range, including prices for Harveys (and other non-electric softeners) for comparison.

    I don't trust any company that isn't upfront about prices. Don't the electric softeners only use elecricity when regenerating? And isn't it just a small water pump? 'hefty electric bills' sounds like FUD to me.

    All the electric ones appear to be made from some fairly standard parts. It sounds like it's the quality of the resin that you should be paying extra money for but very hard to tell what you actually get.
    • CommentAuthorbillt
    • CommentTimeAug 6th 2014
    I'd say it says that they have good salesmen who can persuade people to throw away a perfectly adequate softener in exchange for theirs.

    The highlighted bit is largely sales oriented mis-direction. Granular salt is cheaper than block salt, the amount of salt used per regeneration depends on the water hardness, so the amount of salt used will be the same as long as the softener is adjusted correctly hence a softener using granular salt will be cheaper in salt costs than one using block - although salt is cheap enough that the difference isn't significant.

    As electric softeners only use electricity to drive a clock the power consumption is completely trivial, so you won't get a hefty electricity bill whatever variety you use.

    Single tank softeners are perfectly adequate; you can set them up so they soften at night when you're unlikely to be using water. They only take about 90 minutes to regenerate, so even if you do a daytime regeneration you will only have hard water for 90 minutes - not much of a hardship!
    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeAug 6th 2014 edited
    Thanks Bill.

    Posted By: Simon StillThis place has a huge range,

    No link Simon?
    East midland water
    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeAug 8th 2014
    Went for a Calmag Calsoft M with 22 mm kit for £400 in the end.
    • CommentAuthorandyman99
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2015
    This is the affect of 25 years in a hard-water area - I now have a water softener installed! With a new HW cylinder an hour heating heats the water to low 60's rather than low 50's. Energy usage to do this remains the same.
    • CommentAuthormaxelaine
    • CommentTimeNov 27th 2017
    ...and, after all that, accepting that we want an ion exchange WS, what make is best?
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2017 edited
    Posted By: maxelaine...and, after all that, accepting that we want an ion exchange WS, what make is best?

    I don't know what is best but I went for an electric, meter-controlled unit that uses granular salt. Specifically I went for a Tapworks AD11. It installed easily and works well.

    With us, it uses a 25 kg bag of salt every six months. We check the reservoir every month because the salt sometimes binds together and doesn't drop down to the bottom where it can take part in the regeneration. So occasionally it needs a poke with a stick to break up the salt and allow it to fall to the bottom.

    It regenerates at two o'clock in the morning when it needs to. I was up at that time once when it did so and wondered what on earth the noise was, but we can't hear it when we're in bed. So we're pretty happy with it.

    edit: I should add that the softener feeds everything except the kitchen tap and garden tap.
    Mine came from East Midlands Water and is meter controlled 'blue' model

    It's hard to get real comparisons/understanding of what you're paying for but their site does have some. There are 2 10 litre softeners on this page. The 'enhanced resin' model goes longer between regenerations and uses less salt when it does but it's £1100 (!) not £350.

    Can't remember what we paid for ours but I'm sure it was less than half that £1100 price which seems hugely expensive. Ours was a "special offer" at a show but they (naturally) seemed to have a slightly different model number to the ones they were selling on the website at the time.

    We've got one that I haven't got round to putting on eBay; if you're interested and could collect from Hereford, I'll dig out the details and wouldn't want a lot for it compared with a new one. Also a stack of salt blocks.
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